Energy provider Dominion's 1Q profit flat

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News,Business

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Dominion Resources Inc. said Thursday its first-quarter profit was nearly unchanged as it spent more on storm-related costs and electric sales were lower than expected.

The Richmond, Va.-based energy provider said its earnings grew by $1 million, to $495 million, in the period ended March 31. Per-share earnings were unchanged at 86 cents.

Excluding certain items, the company's operating profit fell about 2 percent to 83 cents per share. Dominion uses operating earnings as its primary performance measurement.

Revenue grew nearly 4 percent to $3.52 billion.

Analysts polled by FactSet expected earnings of 90 cents per share on revenue of $3.18 billion.

Dominion Resources is one of the nation's largest producers and transporters of energy, running natural gas pipelines and electric transmission lines.

Part of the reason for the "challenging" quarter was the delayed start to operations at its large gas processing plant in Natrium, W.Va, said CEO Thomas Farrell in a statement. The plant will serve the energy-rich Marcellus and Utica shale regions. Other reasons included higher than normal costs to restore power after storms and weaker-than-expected electric sales.

In the current quarter, the company expects to benefit from a return to normal weather in areas where it provides electricity and higher revenues from its gas transmission projects.

As part of a refocusing of its resources on the more profitable ventures, Dominion said last year that it would exit the merchant coal-fired generation business. Coal plants have become less economical because the production boom in natural gas has made that fuel so much cheaper and utilities are being pushed by environmental rules to rely less on coal.

Dominion last month said it agreed to sell three power stations to funds controlled by the private equity firm Energy Capital Partners and invest the proceeds in its regulated businesses and to reduce debt.

In October, Dominion also had announced plans to close and decommission its Kewaunee Power Station in Wisconsin after it was unable to find a buyer for the 556-megawatt nuclear power plant.

Dominion Resources owns about 27,500 megawatts of generation, 11,000 miles of natural gas transmission, gathering and storage pipeline and 6,300 miles of electric transmission lines. It serves retail energy customers in 15 states.

The company kept its operating earnings outlook for the year, for between $3.20 and $3.50 per share.

Shares dropped 69 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $60.43 in midday trading.

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Michael Felberbaum can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/MLFelberbaum.

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